|Written by Jae Margret Michaels|
Green Means Go-Getter
Life-affirming. It’s a phrase that’s easy to apply to Michelle Harris, co-creator and host of the top-rated eco-friendly daytime show on the AmericanLife TV network, Alive & Well with Michelle Harris.
Her joie de vivre is infectious, as is her passion for all things green, vegetarian, animal-friendly, and inspiring. She and her husband, Mark Harris, co-created the series in 2002 when they noticed how frequently Michelle was dispensing Earth-friendly advice. As it turned out, Michelle and Mark were on the leading edge of what some people like to call the “modern green movement”—a trend with roots in the ’60s, and one that has rapidly gained ground this decade.
“It’s kind of just little things, but I feel like the whole country is having a sense of empowerment now,” Michelle says. “The things we do count.”
She would know; she’s been doing things that count since she was a young student.
Growing up in Connecticut and Florida, Michelle showed an early interest in the environment
“I’ve just always gotten that we need to do something,” she says. “If you have the choice of living in a clean environment or a dirty one, what’s better for you? It’s not rocket science.”
In addition to her precocious environmental awareness, Michelle became a vegetarian at 14 after seeing a heart-wrenching story about a slaughterhouse on the news. Her commitment to animal welfare spurred a desire in her to become a veterinarian, but when she got to college, the reality was harder for her to stomach than she had imagined.
As luck would have it, her roommate was a communications major. One day, Michelle happened to go with her to the campus radio station. Michelle was handed some news copy to read, and in that moment, a new passion was born. She later graduated in liberal arts with a core in radio/TV/film. “I found that I really loved it,” she tells.
After college, she moved to Los Angeles, where she began her career in radio; life in Southern California suited her. “It feels like I belong here,” she says.
A brief move to Florida proved equally fortuitous—that is where she and Mark started their show. Michelle decided that she wanted to start pitching her own projects, so they began brainstorming and soon found themselves funding a pilot for Alive & Well with their own credit cards.
AmericanLife TV network liked the project and picked it up as a Saturday lifestyle show. A return to Los Angeles was necessary in order to make shooting the show easier for them.
The show, which covers all areas of green living, is now on five days a week and is the top-rated eco-friendly daytime show on the network. This year marks their seventh season. “I feel like I’m in production all the time now,” she chuckles.
But she’s not complaining. In fact, Michelle says she wants to “continue to get the message out [about green issues] in a fun and entertaining way so that people want to watch.”
“We try and have it be fun and not so much shaking our fingers at people,” she explains. “Hopefully, I’m helping people.”
It’s that desire to share her life-changing advice that has led her in many different, positive directions.
Her love of animals inspired her to become an animal-welfare activist. She lobbies and volunteers for various animal charities, devoting much time to the Pet Project Foundation. She also cares for her own adored trio of indoor, fixed rabbits.
Her environmentally conscious lifestyle includes driving a Toyota Prius and living in an eco-friendly house that she and Mark originally bought as a fixer-upper. The couple gutted the house and gave it a green makeover. Their renovations included putting in bamboo floors, recycled glass countertops in the kitchen, magnetic faucets that help conserve water, using VOC-free (volatile organic compound) paints, and more.
“These things made such a big difference to the aesthetics, too,” she says. “It’s my dream house that I love.”
As busy as they are, Michelle and Mark are also working on developing a green-themed reality show. It’s just one more way for them to encourage people to engage in living gently on the Earth. “It can be easy to be green,” Harris says. “It’s small changes that make a big difference. I feel really blessed that I’m able to do something that I love to do.”